Facebook slashes price, size of Portal video call gadget

Facebook announces video streaming device Portal TV

Facebook unveils new models of Portal video chatting devices

In an effort to replicate the experience of "hanging out", Portal TV's cameras will use artificial intelligence to automatically follow users around the room while they are on a video call, while its eight microphones will ensure they do not have to change their speaking volume.

It is keeping the focus of its new Portal line on video calling, adding the capability for WhatsApp calls along with improvements to a wide-angle camera that keeps users in focus as they move about a room. It will also feature augmented reality filters for callers.

Standard models of the Portal, which ship on October 15, will come in $129 and $179 versions. You can also use the devices like a TV to enjoy Facebook Watch content like Red Table Talk and other shows.

That list of features should give you a hint at exactly who Facebook's targeting with its Portal products. The company hasn't disclosed any sales figures other than to say that Portal has exceeded expectations since its 2018 launch.

Bosworth also touted privacy protections like local processing of smart features on the devices, which means most user data, will not be sent back to Facebook servers.

"Hey Portal" feature enables seamless voice interaction with Portal devices.

Whenever Facebook is involved in something, it isn't long before privacy comes up as a topic of conversation.

You can use the same AR effects as on the smaller Portal displays - over Facebook Messenger - even if doing them in real-time on quite a large television screen is somewhat more disconcerting than in a throwaway Instagram post on your mobile. There are three new Portal models: Portal, Portal Mini and Portal TV.

Facebook insists it's not listening to or watching your Portal calls.

Interestingly, last year's jumbo-sized Portal+ is sticking around at a reduced price of $279, while the 10.1-inch "regular" Portal is getting a major redesign. Facebook says it designed both devices to look like picture frames so they would blend in. You'll also be able to turn off storage of those commands, Facebook says. Apart from the Portal TV the company also announced the 10-inch Portal and the 8-inch Portal Mini which are smaller versions of the Portal Plus announced.

Portal has other intelligence to make video calling more interesting. Put off by the bezel-heavy panels of the original Portal?

"We wanted this to be a device that fits in every home", Facebook vice president of AR/VR Andrew Bosworth said of the new designs.

One of our complaints when we reviewed the original Portal was that it limited to calls using Facebook Messenger.

The Portal TV differs considerably from the rest of the Portal range in its appearance, given it doesn't ship with a screen of its own - relying instead on a television to display calls and the Portal interface. The contacts app for Portal now includes separate tab for your Messenger and WhatsApp contacts. Portal is even up for pre-orders in the US, Canada, and Europe.

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